Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Author: Rashid Khalidi

Publisher: Beacon Press (March 12, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 080704475X

Book Description

An examination of the failure of the United States as a broker in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, through three key historical moments

For more than seven decades the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people has raged on with no end in sight, and for much of that time, the United States has been involved as a mediator in the conflict. In this book, acclaimed historian Rashid Khalidi zeroes in on the United States's role as the purported impartial broker in this failed peace process.

Khalidi closely analyzes three historical moments that illuminate how the United States' involvement has, in fact, thwarted progress toward peace between Israel and Palestine. The first moment he investigates is the "Reagan Plan" of 1982, when Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin refused to accept the Reagan administration's proposal to reframe the Camp David Accords more impartially. The second moment covers the period after the Madrid Peace Conference, from 1991 to 1993, during which negotiations between Israel and Palestine were brokered by the United States until the signing of the secretly negotiated Oslo accords. Finally, Khalidi takes on President Barack Obama's retreat from plans to insist on halting the settlements in the West Bank.

Through in-depth research into and keen analysis of these three moments, as well as his own firsthand experience as an advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the 1991 pre-Oslo negotiations in Washington, DC, Khalidi reveals how the United States and Israel have actively colluded to prevent a Palestinian state and resolve the situation in Israel's favor. Brokers of Deceit bares the truth about why peace in the Middle East has been impossible to achieve: for decades, US policymakers have masqueraded as unbiased agents working to bring the two sides together, when, in fact, they have been the agents of continuing injustice, effectively preventing the difficult but essential steps needed to achieve peace in the region.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Brokers of Deceit

"What has happened to the Palestinian people since 1948 is one of the great crimes of modern history. Of course, Israel bears primary responsibility for this tragedy. However, as Rashid Khalidi shows in his smart new book, American presidents from Truman to Obama have sided with Israel at almost every turn and helped it inflict immense pain and humiliation on the Palestinians. At the same time, they have employed high-sounding but dishonest rhetoric to cover up Israel's brutal behavior. As Brokers of Deceit makes clear, the United States richly deserves to be called "Israel's lawyer."  —John J. Mearsheimer, coauthor of The Israel Lobby

“Drawing on his own experience as a Palestinian negotiator and recently released documents, Rashid Khalidi mounts a frontal attack on the myths and misconceptions that have come to surround America’s role in the so-called “peace process” which is all process and no peace. The title is not too strong:  the book demonstrates conclusively that far from serving as an honest broker, the US continues to act as Israel’s lawyer – with dire consequences for its own interests, for the Palestinians, and for the entire region. Professor Khalidi deserves much credit for his superb exposition of the fatal gap between the rhetoric and reality of American diplomacy on this critically important issue.” —Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford and author ofThe Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.

"Khalidi has combined history, common sense and his first-hand understanding of arab-israeli peace talks, as brokered by Washington, to make the case that American national security interests would be best served by a just peace in the Middle East.  Instead, he writes with great sadness, Washington's efforts to be an honest broker fall "somewhere between high irony and farce" —and puts democratic America, with its avowed commitment to freedom for all, in the position of enabling the continued subjugation of the Palestine people.  This is an important book." —Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker

“For those of us who believe that a two-state solution is the path to justice and peace for Israel and Palestine, Rashid Khalidi’s trenchant analysis is powerful and disturbing. The United States has failed repeatedly to be an honest broker, accepting the status quo of Israeli occupation and settlements when a true peace agreement would be deeply in the interest of all parties, Israel, Palestine, and the US itself. Khalidi emphasizes that the deceptions of language and deed have serious long-term costs and that the United States might soon impose and incur still greater costs through ill-conceived policies vis-à-vis Syria, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East.” —Jeffrey D. Sachs, author of The End of Poverty

Praise for Rashid Khalidi

“Rashid Khalidi is arguably the foremost U.S. historian of the modern Middle East.”—Warren I. Cohen, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“In a refreshing contrast to the yammering bazaar of complaint and allegation that has dominated American public discussion of the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001, "The Iron Cage" is a patient and eloquent work, ranging over the whole of modern Palestinian history from World War I to the death of Yasser Arafat. Reorienting the Palestinian narrative around the attitudes and tactics of the Palestinians themselves, Khalidi lends a remarkable illumination to a story so wearily familiar it is often hard to believe anything new can be found within.”—Jonathan Shainin, Salon

“Unlike most so-called Middle East experts, Khalidi actually knows a great deal about that region”—Professor John J. Mearsheimer, author of The Israel Lobby

“With a deep knowledge of the Middle East and a felicitous literary style, Khalidi . . . examines the history of U.S. involvement in the area against the backdrop of European colonialism.”—Ronald Steel, The Nation

“Rashid Khalidi’s extraordinary book [Resurrecting Empire] is enormously relevant for our times, especially in light of America’s growing involvement in the Middle East.”—Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize

“Khalidi’s role is as a historian, working to show how historical forces, largely ignored in the U.S., have shaped the modern Middle East. He takes particular delight in demolishing the various clichés used to describe the Middle East, bred out of what he terms ‘America’s historical amnesia.’”—Chris Hedges, New York Times


Rashid Khalidi

Reviewed by Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco

ashid Khalidi has written a relatively short, readable and frankly depressing overview of the more than 35 years of U.S. diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The noted Columbia University historian provides important empirical evidence and sobering analysis that shatters the mythology that the United States has a genuine desire for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Khalidi analyzes three distinct periods in the U.S.-led "peace process." He acknowledges omitting some other important historical moments, but these three typify the betrayal by successive administrations of their responsibilities as the principal mediator in the conflict. The first case is the Reagan Plan of 1982, a failed initiative to interpret, in a more balanced manner, the sections of the 1978 Camp David accords dealing with the Palestinians. The second failure covers the two-year period following the 1991 peace conference in Madrid, in which the United States brokered talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives. The third is President Barack Obama's failure to follow up on his initial calls for Israel to halt the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

He uses these case studies to reveal how, despite occasional minor disagreements on specifics, the policies of the Israeli and American governments towards the Palestinians have been so closely intertwined that, by virtually any objective reckoning, the United States should have no credibility as an intermediary between the two parties. Indeed, as Khalidi observes, the asymmetry between an occupied, disempowered, oppressed and scattered people and the regional superpower that occupies their land remains unacknowledged under the pretense that the United States is simply trying to broker an agreement between two warring antagonists.

Khalidi resists the temptation to further document the cruelties and injustice of what successive Israeli governments have inflicted upon the Palestinians in their ongoing occupation and colonization policies, and instead emphasizes American culpability in the imposition of this regime. He highlights how, from the Camp David agreements to the Madrid framework to the Oslo accords, the U.S.-Israeli agenda has essentially been that of making the prospects of Palestinian self-determination — even on just the 22 percent of Palestine seized by Israel in the 1967 war — not only elusive, but increasingly difficult to achieve. Khalidi recognizes the differences between successive U.S. administrations and between various Israeli governments while still acknowledging the continuity in the underlying opposition to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

In damning detail, Khalidi demonstrates how, rather than being an honest broker, the U.S. role since taking leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in 1978 has essentially been — as acknowledged by a former chief U.S. negotiator — that of "Israel's lawyer." Washington operates "increasingly in defense of Israel's interests, and to the systematic detriment of those of the Palestinians" while using "high-sounding but dishonest language" (pp. xxxvi). The very use of the term "peace process," Khalidi argues, "has served to disguise an ugly reality: whatever process the United States was championing, it was not in fact actually directed at achieving a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis" (p. xviii). It was a process, according to Khalidi, in which U.S. officials would deliberately "ignore the basic elements necessary for a lasting peace, even as they obsessed about details of the negotiating process" (p. 65).

Khalidi deconstructs other language used to rationalize the consistent U.S. prioritization of Israeli demands relative to the Palestinians. One is the U.S. obsession about what is commonly referred to as "Israeli security interests," concerns that go well beyond any reasonable definition of that term, such as restricting the importation of generator parts or even pasta into the Gaza Strip, preventing Palestinians struggling with inadequate water supplies from placing cisterns on their roofs, or conducting air strikes against crowded civilian neighborhoods. Indeed, as Khalidi observes, it is the Palestinians — having suffered decades of oppressive military occupation, diaspora and denial of their most fundamental human, civil and political rights — for whom concerns about security should take priority. Indeed, he provides quite a few examples of how terms such as "terrorism," "self-determination" and "autonomy" have been repeatedly distorted to Orwellian proportions.

And despite Israel's longstanding overwhelming military superiority over any combination of Arab adversaries, successive U.S. presidents — ironically, Obama even more than others — have evoked some of the images from tragic episodes of Jewish history to disingenuously portray modern Israel as the victim, existentially vulnerable and on the verge of imminent destruction. This serves the purpose, as Khalidi observes, of making it easier for Israel to engage in practices that would be considered unjustifiable if committed by ordinary states.

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About the Author

Rashid Khalidi is the author of seven books about the Middle East, including Palestinian Identity, Brokers of Deceit, Resurrecting Empire, The Iron Cage, and Sowing Crisis. His writing on Middle Eastern history and politics has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and many journals. For his work on the Middle East, Professor Khalidi has received fellowships and grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the American Research Center in Egypt, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. He is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University in New York and is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.

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